Sunday, January 06, 2013

D&C Sunday School lesson 2

Lesson 2 - "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World"

In this lesson, the manual covers basic D&C and BoM scriptures regarding Jesus' many roles, particularly in regards to the atonement and resurrection.

A major focus is on D&C 19:16-19

"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:16-19)

Here we see that Christ suffered, so that we do not have to.  The one and only condition given here is repentance.  There is no requirement for baptism, ordination, or any other ordinance or covenant.  Here we see the importance of Christ's atonement.  It saves us from spiritual hell and Outer Darkness, and only requires we have faith that Jesus can save us, and humble ourselves enough to repent.

In Alma 36, the prophet tells his son about his conversion story. In it, we find that the young Alma went about attacking the Church, seeking to destroy it.  The Lord sent an angel to command him to stop, or he would be destroyed.  Alma fell into a coma, what some consider a Near Death Experience (NDE), where for three days he dwelt in darkness and "exquisite pain".  So terrible was his experience that he felt the only escape he had was to cease from existing!  Fortunately, he remembered the words of his father regarding the Messiah, and prayed for deliverance.  Immediately, he was taken from the darkness and pain, and into a marvelous light and "exquisite joy".  He notes seeing God on his throne in the distance, and wishes he could be closer.

What causes such a distinct pain, where all our anguished thoughts are filled with the horrors of our sins? 

"Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit." (D&C 19:20)

It seems that when we sin, the Spirit of God is withdrawn from us to some level or another.  When it fully departs, it leaves us empty of any hope or happiness. In a modern contrast, we can think of the Dementors, the wraith-like demons of the Harry Potter series, sucking the joy out of a person.  However, in our case, this misery is caused not by some being sucking the joy out of us, but by the Holy Spirit leaving us alone and empty.  All we can see and feel and know are the sins that have shut us out of God's presence. 

Spirit prison's hell is designed to compel us to be humble so that we will repent (Alma 32).  We are forced to see what we really have become and experience the pain we have caused.  Whether it takes us 3 days like Alma to repent, or a thousand years to repent, the Lord will patiently await as long as he can, as to rescue us from ourselves.

Those who refuse to repent will be sons of Perdition.  They will forever refuse to acknowledge Christ as their Savior, nor accept his salvation from spiritual death and hell.  Such wicked people will be as those who would wish the rocks to fall upon them and hide them from Christ (Alma 12), or prefer to dwell with the wicked in hell than in the presence of a just and holy God (Mormon 9).

The Lord does not want us to suffer.  However, he wants less that we are forever suffering outside of His presence.

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him." (D&C 18:10-11)

Note that rescuing us from physical (resurrection) and spiritual death (atonement) are just the beginning of the Savior's work.  Those who gain a Telestial glory gain a kingdom of salvation (D&C 76:88), but this is where murderers and others who are compelled to repent will go to.
We find that there is a process we can follow to receive ever greater and greater glory, even until we can stand fully in God's presence and glory with confidence.

"And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first." (D&C 93:12-14)

The apostle John saw that even the mortal Christ did not have a fulness of God's glory at first. He had to receive grace for grace, by going from one grace to the next.  We also must do this.  It is a cycle of development, or eternal round (D&C 3:2, 35:1), based upon the "Doctrine of Christ" (2 Ne 31, 3 Ne 11).

As we develop our faith in Christ, repent, and receive ordinances, we receive a greater infusion of the Holy Ghost within us.  The Holy Ghost gives us a greater capacity to believe, recognize our weaknesses, repent, serve, and live a holy life.  As we receive one level of grace or righteousness, then we are ready to move upward to the next level of grace by exercising greater faith, repenting, receiving of ordinances, and receiving a greater infusion of the Holy Spirit.

Eventually, we become holy as Christ is, and receive a fulness of the grace and glory of God.

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